Thursday, September 15, 2005

Baltimore's Task Force on Lead Hazard Inspection, Enforcement, and Abatement

from The League: Reassembled

The Baltimore City Council took an important step in tackling the problem of lead poisoning in our communities yesterday: they did absolutely nothing.

In an Education, Housing, Health and Human Services Committee hearing, Chairman Kenneth N. Harris, Sr. did not call a vote on a bill (05-0044R) designed to create the Task Force on Lead Hazard Inspection, Enforcement, and Abatement. According to committee staffer Bill Driscoll, the committee will not pass the bill onto the full Council to give members "time to digest the info."

So why is this good news? Lead poisoning is a serious problem within poorer neighborhood, resulting in unsafe living conditions that are suspected of health risks including developmental disorders. A task force seems like a great step towards addressing the issue. It would clear up confusion over enforcement of current lead code, something which allows landlords to continue renting dangerous properties. But the task force proposed in the bill could actually make the lead problem worse.

As noted in a City Paper article earlier this year, the "resolution calls for the task force to include, among others, the Property Owner’s Association of Greater Baltimore and the Maryland Multi-Family Housing Association. Members of both organizations are currently facing lead-code violations, so the opportunity to sit on a lead-enforcement task force would be particularly appealing—if only to advocate on behalf of their members’ interests. Terry Harris, a local environmental activist and attorney, likens inviting these groups to sit on the task force to 'asking crack dealers who’s going to police them.'"

Inviting the culprits to sit on the task force would almost certainly lead to inadequate recommendations which could end up doing more harm than good. So we at the League applaud Councilmember Harris for refusing to approve of the task force as established by 05-0044R. Doing nothing is actually a step in the right direction. We encourage Council to take the next step and submit a proposal which would create a task force to seriously and honestly consider the problem of lead poisoning in Baltimore.

from The League: Reassembled with revisions


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